Joffrey Academy of Dance: One Audition, Endless Possibilities

Sponsored by Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet
December 2, 2021

As in-person auditions for summer intensives once again start to crowd your calendar, the multitude of choices can feel overwhelming. Should you return to a program you loved in the “before times,” or try someplace new? Is it better to go for a small, nurturing program, or try your luck with a prestigious big-name school? No matter your goals for summer 2022 (and beyond!), the Joffrey Academy of Dance is a smart bet.

Chicago’s Joffrey Academy of Dance is the only school owned, operated and endorsed by The Joffrey Ballet, making it the sole training program that feeds directly into the world-renowned professional company. But its school is also the gateway to a plethora of training and professional opportunities, at The Joffrey Ballet or in the wider dance world. Here are three avenues you may want to consider.

Summer Intensives

This summer, Joffrey is offering ballet-focused programs for ages 7 to 21 and up. “We’re looking for intelligent, mature dancers who are able to tell a story while they’re dancing,” says Joffrey Academy of Dance director Raymond Rodriguez of the promising artists-in-training the faculty are seeking on the 2022 audition tour. “We want thoughtful, forward-thinking dancers with technique, yes, but also personality. Some companies just look for a certain height and that’s it. That doesn’t matter to us at The Joffrey Ballet, because we’re an eclectic company.”

The Junior Summer Intensive, which has three levels (for ages 7 to 10, 9 to 11 and 9 to 14), ranges from two to three weeks in length. The daily schedule—paced appropriately for these younger dancers and scheduled in shifts to allow for social distancing—includes a variety of classes like ballet, jazz, flexibility and more.

Dancers 12 and up can audition for the Advanced Summer Intensive, a three- or five-week experience focused on refining technique and challenging dancers to perform at the pre-professional level. Daily instruction in classical ballet, pointe, men’s technique, pas de deux, variations and more will be complemented by weekly samplings of contemporary technique, jazz, modern, character dance, body conditioning and health seminars.

What do each of these Joffrey summer programs have in common? An exciting culminating performance at the end of each session.

Year-Round Professional Training Programs

Not just a rigorous training experience in and of itself, a Joffrey summer intensives is also the only way to be considered for the Academy’s full-time pre-professional programs: the Joffrey Conservatory (ages 14 to 18), the Trainee Program (17 and up), and the Joffrey Studio Company (also 17 and up). Joffrey faculty feel strongly that one audition class can’t show everything they need to know about a dancer’s potential. Observing a dancer over an entire summer session allows the Academy to make year-round admission decisions that consider factors beyond technique, such as a dancer’s maturity and emotional readiness to train full-time, far away from home and family.

Young adult dancers at the barre in tendu derrière in a studio with floor-to-ceiling glass walls.
Joffrey Studio Company. Photo by Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Academy of Dance.

Now is a particularly exciting time to start training at Joffrey year-round, after the arrival of Christopher Marney in November as the head of its Studio Company and trainees. As a former principal dancer with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures and after five years as artistic director of London’s Central School of Ballet, Marney brings to Joffrey a wealth of experience as a professional dancer and as an educator of pre-professional dancers. “I have been so impressed by the level of talent and care that is here,” Marney says. “It’s incredible for a school this large to have one-on-one coaching opportunities for the students. The amount of dancing you can do here and the quality of teaching is pretty unique among institutions like this.” And it’s a combination that works. About 10 percent of the dancers currently in The Joffrey Ballet came through the Academy, and that number grows every year.

Brand-New Contemporary Program

For Joffrey’s 2022–23 season, the Academy is launching a year-round contemporary dance program that will run parallel to the Trainee Program. Rodriguez, who’s currently finalizing details of the program in collaboration with Marney, says: “This is for classically based dancers who may not want a career in classical ballet, and for those who recognize that in today’s world, we need dancers who can do everything.” Aimed at 17- to 21-year-olds, this program will train pre-professionals in modern, contemporary, ballet, West African, choreography, composition, dance pedagogy and more—along with wellness education on topics like anatomy and nutrition. The program will be housed in Joffrey’s brand-new second building, located in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago.

Rodriguez says that this new contemporary program constitutes an important pillar of the Joffrey for All ethos. “This is another pathway towards a professional career for students who’ve come to Joffrey through our Community Engagement programs,” Rodriguez says. Joffrey for All isn’t just about offering classes and programs for all backgrounds and levels, it’s about showing the way to a professional career for any dancer who has the ability and the dedication.

To find out how you can audition (in person, on tour or via video) for any or all of Joffrey’s 2022–23 programs, click here